The Caribbean region has rich cultures and histories of giving and sharing, which even today help to improve the quality of island life and environment. As a professional advisor to generous people and families, and a curious philanthropy researcher, I wanted to better understand the giving landscape in Barbados, where I grew up, but more broadly across the Caribbean. So, I spoke with more than 30 of the region’s most generous givers and summarized what I learned in, ‘A Portrait of Affluent Giving in the Caribbean: Experiences, barriers, and the future of philanthropy’. Visit www.caribbeangiving. com to learn more. Insights from these philanthropic leaders indicate there is a new way to think about giving in Barbados, that strengthens its social infrastructure.
The philanthropic community in Barbados is diverse. It includes nationals who have created or inherited their wealth in the region, but is enriched by people from the diaspora, and by non-nationals who have chosen to make the Caribbean home. In my study, nonnationals reported that their involvement in charitable activities helped to open doors to new social connections and networks, which helped them get settled and better understand their new community. Generous people in the region demonstrate high levels of volunteerism and, importantly, 60% of these philanthropists plan to give more over the next 3 years.
My research found that much of this giving is directed to immediate and pressing needs spread across education, health, and poverty relief. This includes the provision of school supplies, food hampers, emergency supports, and the myriad impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to the needs of others is a deeply human impulse and is especially poignant on a small island. We can also think about giving to initiatives that address the root causes of critical issues and making philanthropic investments that build resilience and capacity within community organizations for the long term. Some have coined this a move from charity to change.
Social infrastructure broadly refers to a community’s systems, relationships, and structures, which include social, economic, environmental, and cultural assets. Barbados has demonstrated to be a vibrant place for economic investment – philanthropic investment is also necessary.
Charities and non-profits are under-resourced assets in Barbados. They tend to be volunteer-run or otherwise have limited staffing and precarious project-based budgets, which can limit the scale and results of their work. Philanthropic giving to support paid professional leadership and core operational capacity can be both stabilizing and transformational, and my research found that more of this type of giving is needed. ASPIRE Barbados was established to help build the capacity of local organizations, to enhance their impact but also their ability to attract donors who then give with greater confidence.
Investing in social infrastructure is also about collaboration, with a shared future vision. Canadian residents in Barbados, Virginia Shaw Hutchinson and Les Hutchinson, became aware of gaps in the provision of health care to children on the island. In response, they established The Shaw Centre for Paediatric Excellence, to advance paediatric training, research, and policy advocacy. It represents a partnership between the LesLois Shaw Foundation, the Government of Barbados, the Centre for Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the SickKids Foundation, the University of the West Indies and the Barbados Community College. Their gift bridges sectors and is helping to solve systemic challenges for long-term impact.
There is a new way to think about philanthropic giving in Barbados. We can invest in its social infrastructure and create a stronger community, together.
To learn more about affluent giving in the Caribbean, visit www.caribbeangiving.org